It’s a weird feeling. Finishing a call with someone who puts so much into perspective. Who embodies how much value you can add into every day, every ride. Hell, even every breath. Someone so positive and who delivers such a high that an illegal boatload from Bogota couldn’t come close to matching it. But at the same time knowing that this passionately soaring creativity and determination to do something brilliant and far-reaching is delivered from astride a ticking time bomb of dramatically limited lifespan. Welcome to the first compelling chapter of the Rider Resilience story.
Nils by mouth
I first heard about Nils Amelinckx using his bike to battle cancer in a short film at the Kendal Mountain Festival Bike Night. Using the endorphin rush of dawn raids on the peaks of his Lakeland home to dilute the excruciating pain of the multiple courses of chemo toxins coursing through that same body. I've since met him regularly at events in his role as cycle marketing chief for Lyon Equipment, sorting out Ortlieb, Julbo, and Teravail gear for testing. Always in awe of his drive and energy whatever phase of treatment he was going through. But also almost always embarrassed by the realization that I’d probably just been bitching and moaning to someone else about a sniffle or slight strain that meant there was no way I could do something.
But while I generally pedal self-pity, what Nils has always done is peddle positivity. Doing everything he could to make the most of the years he had left of his young life with his young family. Lighting up every meeting with his enthusiasm and loading his social feed with stunning pictures of a life being wonderfully well lived.
And then a few weeks ago the beat of that life drum changed dramatically as doctors told Nils that despite all the experimental treatments and surgeries he’d helped test he was looking at months left to live, not years. We found this out through the kind of social post that puts your own heart through the floor. But true to Nils and his spirit it also rekindled his project to help lift riders back onto their feet whatever has knocked them down.
Nils idea for Rider Resilience is to create a global collective to build resources for any riders who need that lift. Whether that’s funding physically impaired riders who need special equipment and support or just providing a platform for reading and sharing stories and thoughts. Words, pictures, and podcasts informed with the honesty that comes from being in the depths of despair or damage and fighting back out minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Gut-wrenching stories curated by someone who’s literally had their guts removed entirely so their body can be split open and chemically scoured to try and buy some extra time alive.
Stark, striking messages about adapting, achieving, and growing through riding despite whatever life has thrown your way. Celebrating how pressing pedals, carving corners, or dropping into a descent can dramatically lift your mood and life. Whether that’s in the face of terminal cancer, deep depression, or just a crap day at work. Reinforcing the real value of something that others sometimes just see as an indulgent hobby or distraction that should be sidelined or stopped entirely in favor of ‘proper’ priorities.
He’s been totally blown away with the response too. That single social post detonated across shares, likes, and reposts in a shockwave of support and self-realization of all the times riding has saved us in some way individually. That resonance was picked up by MTB media all over the world too, triggering offers of help, collaboration, and donations from famous riders and total strangers. Most valuable and affirming to Nils as his phone, mails, and DMs exploded though were others opening up with their own Rider Resilience stories, underlining just how important somewhere to speak these things could be. As a result, Nils has already recorded podcasts with several other inspiring icons including World Champions and Olympic Gold medallists as well as people who you’ve never heard of but whose words you might never forget.
And that's just the start. He’s talking films, being approached for major collaborations, charging through the paperwork of creating a charitable company, and ordering merch to start creating the first phase of the Rider Resilience fund.
Get involved now
So with Rider Resilience still very much in its infancy and in many ways barely existing ahead of the planned 28th October launch, why am I talking about it here and risking you forgetting to go back and get a hat, a T, or a massive dose of bike-related self-medication in a months time?
I’ll leave that explanation to Nils….
"Whilst my own cancer journey has become the backbone and catalyst for Rider Resilience, it was clear from the onset that there were opportunities to create inspirational ripples well beyond this one area of adversity. Rider Resilience seeks to reinforce the mindset that bikes are medicine, that you can ride through adversity, and that we are all part of an incredible, supportive community that will pull together to help out like-minded individuals.
For Rider Resilience to really get humming, it will rely heavily on word of mouth, a degree of brand affiliation by proudly wearing our merch and identifying yourself with a movement that aims to simply pay it forward and put something back into a sport that has given us all so much. We want to cover all types of adversity, whether that be physical, mental, racial, financial, addiction, or even human displacement through war. That's why I would encourage anyone to share their story if they have personally appreciated the benefit of a humble bicycle during darker times.
The clock is obviously ticking against me and at best I personally will only lay the foundations for something that will have the potential to become a global movement. The more we can establish now, the stronger a base we will have to work from going forward. With that in mind, even prior to the merch going live on the website there are areas where people can make a real difference. A simple donation means I don't need to deprive our kids of their life savings in order to commit to stock. Sharing your story will help to build a database of inspiration which - even if it just gets someone out on a rainy day - will see them and the broader community benefit. Finally spreading the word sharing through social media and keeping the buzz alive will ensure that we have a captive audience and we can hit the ground running to deliver on what we set out to do.
Looking at things at a higher level, as some businesses become increasingly philanthropic we are also looking to talk to brands interested in longer-term partnerships and collaborations. So if you're influential in any business where 'paying forward' is part of your culture and Rider Resilience resonates with your advocacy goals then please get in touch to see how we can work together.